Deutsche Bahn delivers on time, and stays on track with digital transformation—with SAFe® on board

Deutsche Bahn delivers on time, and stays on track with digital transformation—with SAFe® on board

Case Studies

“For Deutsche Bahn Digital Sales, SAFe is the framework for the strategic digitalization program … With it, we are delivering faster and more effectively on our objectives, which drives our ability to compete in the digital age.”
Matthias Opitz, Senior Program Manager, DB Vertrieb, Deutsch Bahn

In SAFe we rely heavily on the metaphor of the train. Value is released through the Agile Release Train (ART). Features are the passengers riding the train. The train departs the station on a schedule, as determined by the Program Increment (PI) cadence, and if a Feature misses a train, it can catch the next one. You get the idea. We love trains.

So, you might imagine our delight at seeing the results from our latest case study from Deutsche Bahn, one of Europe’s largest railway, cargo, and bus operators that serves over 12 million passengers with 25,000 trains and 13,000 buses per day. Like almost every other business, the transportation industry is facing both the threat and opportunity of digitalization and looking for ways to keep pace with the times.

In 2014 DB embarked on a digital transformation to modernize the way their business units operate. Yet in nearly every business unit, the transformation chugged along slowly and struggled to deliver large solutions.

The effort, however, began accelerating progress in its DB Vertrieb group (passenger transport) after choosing to work with SAFe® and Scaled Agile partner, KEGON. With KEGON’s help, they got to work rolling out SAFe, beginning with training change agents (SPCs) and other key roles on the ART.

At first, team members questioned whether they could meet the ambitious goals set for the first PI. But any doubt or resistance soon faded away as teams delivered perfectly on target.

Big rewards for applying SAFe beyond IT

Once they took on SAFe, DB understood from the get-go that they needed to bring in the entire organization, and not limit the practice to IT. They established a ‘Target Operating Model’ (TOM) for the business unit and to perform the transformation activities in a dedicated ART. Shared services departments such as HR, controlling, communication, training and support, and marketing were brought into the fold. The effort paid off.

As of today, DB has trained more than 1,000 people, and runs 15 ARTs and four Value Streams. The results have exceeded expectations:

  • Faster time-to-market – Lead time dropped from 12 months to 3-4 months.
  • More test automation – Coverage of test automation improved from 30% or less to 80%.
  • Better engagement – 90% greater collaboration among teams and the resulting better outcomes have raised employees’ satisfaction levels. Even skeptics now say, “Don’t change it.”
  • Clearer fiscal visibility – They improved forecasting for financial requirements.
  • Greater transparency – DB has a crisper view on the portfolio roadmap, work in progress, and financial resources allocation.

To get there, DB had to change many of the ingrained ways that it did business and budgeting. To learn how, check out the complete case study.

Special thanks to those who shared Deutsche Bahn’s SAFe story, including Matthias Opitz, Senior Program Manager, DB Vertrieb, and Thorsten Janning, SAFe Fellow, of KEGON.

Stay SAFe,

Author Info

Dean Leffingwell

Recognized as the one of the world’s foremost authorities on Lean-Agile best practices, Dean Leffingwell is an author, entrepreneur, and software development methodologist.

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